All About Rotary
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HISTORY

Early years The first Rotary Club was formed when attorney Paul P. Harris called together a meeting of three business acquaintances in downtown Chicago, at Harris' friend Sylvester Schiele's office in the Unity Building on Dearborn Street on February 23, 1905. In addition to Harris and Schiele (a coal merchant), Gustave E. Loehr (mines engineer), and Hiram E. Shorey (tailor) were the other two who attended this first meeting.

The members chose the name Rotary because initially they rotated subsequent weekly club meetings to each other's offices, although within a year, the Chicago club became so large it became necessary to adopt the now-common practice of a regular meeting place. The next four Rotary Clubs were organized in cities in the western United States, beginning with San Francisco, then Oakland, Los Angeles, and Seattle. The National Association of Rotary Clubs in America was formed in 1910.

In April 1912, Rotary chartered a club in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, marking the first establishment of an American-style service club outside the United States. To reflect the addition of a club outside of the United States, the name was changed to the International Association of Rotary Clubs in 1912. In August 1912, the Rotary Club of London received its charter from the Association, marking the first acknowledged Rotary club outside North America. It later became known that the Dublin club in Ireland was organized before the London club, but the Dublin club did not receive its charter until after the London club was chartered.

During World War I, Rotary in Britain increased from 9 to 22 clubs,[9] and other early clubs in other nations included those in Cuba in 1916 and India in 1920.

In 1922, the name was changed to Rotary International. By 1925, Rotary had grown to 200 clubs with more than 20,000 members.

War time

In Germany, no club had been formed before 1927, because of "opposition from the continental clubs". For a while after 1933, Rotary Clubs 'met with approval' of the Nazi authorities and were considered to offer 'opportunity for party comrades ... to provide enlightenment regarding the nature and policy of the National Socialist movement'. The Nazis, although they saw international organizations as suspect, had authorized NSDAP members to be members of the Rotary through the Nazi Party's court rulings issued in 1933, 1934 and 1936. In 1937, more than half the Rotarians were Nazi Party members.

Six German clubs were formed after Hitler came to power. They came under pressure almost immediately to expel their Jewish members.

Rotary clubs do not appear to have had a unified policy towards the Nazi regime: while several German Rotary Clubs decided to disband their organizations in 1933, others practiced a policy of appeasement or collaborated. In Munich the club removed from its members' list a number of Rotarians, Jewish and non-Jewish, who were politically unacceptable for the regime, including Thomas Mann (already in exile in Switzerland). Twelve members resigned in "sympathy with the expelled members".

Beginning 1937 however, hostile articles were published in the Nazi press about Rotary, comparing Rotary with Freemasonry. Soon after that, the incompatibility between Nazism and the international humanitarian organization resulted in two decisions which would jeopardize the existence of Rotary in Germany: in June 1937, the ministry of the interior forbade civil servants to be members of the Rotary; in July, the NSDAP's party court reversed its previous rulings and declared Party and Rotarian membership incompatible as from January 1938.

Rotary's cause was advocated before the NSDAP party court by Dr. Grill, Governor for the Rotary 73rd district, arguing that the German Rotary was compliant with the goals of the Nazi government, had excluded Freemasons in 1933 and non-Aryans in 1936. Other attempts were made, also by foreign Rotarians, but appeasement failed this time, and, in September 1937, the 73rd district dissolved itself. Subsequently the charter of German clubs was withdrawn by Rotary International, although some clubs continued to meet 'privately'.

Rotary Clubs in Spain ceased to operate shortly after the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War.

Clubs were disbanded across Europe as follows:

  • Austria (1938)
  • Italy (1939)
  • Czechoslovakia (1940)
  • Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Luxembourg (1941)
  • Hungary (1941/2)

From 1945

Rotary clubs in Eastern Europe and other communist-regime nations were disbanded by 1945-46, but new Rotary clubs were organized in many other countries, and by the time of the national independence movements in Africa and Asia, the new nations already had Rotary clubs. After the relaxation of government control of community groups in Russia and former Soviet satellite nations, Rotarians were welcomed as club organizers, and clubs were formed in those countries, beginning with the Moscow club in 1990.

In 1985, Rotary launched its PolioPlus program to immunize all of the world's children against polio. In 2005 Rotary reported contributions of half a billion dollars to the cause, resulting in the immunization of nearly two billion children worldwide.

As of 2006, Rotary has more than 1.2 million members in over 32,000 clubs among 200 countries and geographical areas, making it the most widespread by branches and second largest service club by membership, behind Lions Club International. The number of Rotarians has slightly declined in recent years: Between 2002 and 2006, Rotary went from 1,245,000 to 1,223,000 members. North America accounts for 450,000 members, Asia for 300,000, Europe for 250,000, Latin America for 100,000, Oceania for 100,000 and Africa for 30,000.


ORGANIZATION and ADMINISTRATION

In order to carry out its service programs, Rotary is structured in club, district and international levels. Rotarians are members of their clubs. The clubs are chartered by the global organization Rotary International (RI) headquartered in Evanston, a suburban city near Chicago, Illinois. For administrative purposes, the more than 32,000 clubs worldwide are grouped into 529 districts, and the districts into 34 zones.

Club

A plaque showing where the local Rotary Club meets, Durham, England. The Rotary Club is the basic unit of Rotary activity, and each club determines its own membership. Clubs originally were limited to a single club per city, municipality, or town, but Rotary International has encouraged the formation of one or more additional clubs in the largest cities when practical. Each club meets weekly, usually at a mealtime on a weekday in a regular location, when Rotarians can discuss club business and hear from guest speakers.

Each club also conducts various service projects within its local community, and participates in special projects involving other clubs in the local district, and occasionally a special project in a "sister club" in another nation. Most clubs also hold social events at least quarterly and in some cases more often. Each club elects its own president and officers among its active members for a one year term. The clubs enjoy considerable autonomy within the framework of the standard constitution and the constitution and bylaws of Rotary International. The governing body of the club is the board of directors, consisting of the club president (who serves as the board chairman), a president-elect, club secretary, club treasurer, and several club board directors. In the majority of clubs, the immediate past president is also a member of the board. The president usually appoints the directors to serve as chairs of the major club committees, including those responsible for club service, vocational service, community service, youth service, and international service.

District level

A district governor, who is an officer of Rotary International and represents the RI board of directors in the field, leads his/her respective Rotary district. Each governor is nominated by the clubs of his/her district, and elected by all the clubs meeting in the annual RI Convention held in a different country each year. The district governor appoints assistant governors from among the Rotarians of the district to assist in the management of Rotary activity and multi-club projects in the district.

Zone level

Approximately 15 Rotary districts form a zone. A zone director, who serves as a member of the RI board of directors, heads two zones. The zone director is nominated by the clubs in the zone and elected by the convention for the terms of two consecutive years.

Rotary International

Rotary International Headquarters in Evanston, Illinois, USA. Rotary International is governed by a board of directors composed of the international president, the president-elect, the general secretary, and 17 zone directors. The nomination and the election of each president is handled in the one-to-three year period before he takes office, and is based on requirements including geographical balance among Rotary zones and previous service as a district governor and board member. The international board meets quarterly to establish policies and make recommendations to the overall governing bodies, the RI Convention and the RI Council on Legislation. The chief operating officer of RI is the general secretary, who heads a staff of about 600 people working at the international headquarters in Evanston and in seven international offices around the world.